THE GAME PRIZE
Back in the 80's, I first saw Coney Island in Davao City in the Philippines. It was not even an island. It was an ice cream store, long since closed. The name stuck in my young mind, associating it with creamy goodness. Fast forward many years later, I'm standing right at where that name was borrowed from, right here at Coney Island in the southernmost tip of Brooklyn, New York.
Coney Island isn't about ice cream as it is about Nathan's Hot Dogs but I feel it's part of the picture. After all, Coney Island is the quintessential quick summer escape for many New Yorkers. It's a mere subway ride from Manhattan. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, visitors fill the beach, the boardwalk and of course, the amusements rides. There are freak shows, games and greasy food everywhere. It's all about having fun and having good times. Coney Island has always been associated with recreation ever since the first carousel was built in 1876.
However, Coney Island's reputation as an amusement mecca has had its ups and downs just like the roller coaster rides. It was the largest amusement park in the United States from the 1880's up until the 1940's, comprising several big independent parks many of which are now gone after a long battle with city rezoning. Of the few remaining big rides available today, two literally stand out: The Cyclone, a rickety wooden roller coaster built in 1927 and now considered a National Historic Landmark, and Deno's Wonder Wheel, a huge ferris wheel from 1920 which was given an official New York City Landmark status in 1989.
With rezoning plans for residential and hotel projects still in the horizon, the future of Coney Island's amusement side is still uncertain. Historic as it is, I certainly want Coney Island to be preserved and protected to ensure future generations will still have a space for accessible recreation. For now, New Yorkers continue to patronize what's left of it while others reminisce the old days of their childhood visits to this iconic park. I was once young when I saw Coney Island back in the Philippines, and I remember it through the cone of an ice cream more than two decades ago.